Politics

06 Apr 2020, 12:19 PM

STA, 6 April 2020 - Slovenia is marking this week 30 years since holding its first free multi-party elections. The winning coalition of parties that formed an opposition to the Communist Party and its affiliates, would lead the country to independence a year later. Speaking today, two officials elected at the time say the country has not realised its full potential.

The late 1980s Slovenia, then still part of Yugoslavia, saw a buzz of burgeoning efforts by scholars, authors, cultural workers and some politicians pushing for the country to introduce a pluralist democratic system and market economy and to break away from the socialist federation.

Gathering momentum through a series of landmark events such as the publication of a manifesto for Slovenia's independence in the 57th volume of the literary journal Nova Revija, the JBTZ trial and the mass protests it triggered, the May Declaration calling for independence and the Slovenian delegation's walking out of the Communists of League of Yugoslavia, the campaign led to the first multi-party election on 8 April 1990.

On that day voters picked two-thirds of the delegates to the 240-member tricameral Assembly; 80 delegates to the socio-political chamber as the most important house, and 80 delegates to the chamber of local communities, with the election to the chamber of "associated labour" following on 12 April.

Of the 83.5% of the eligible voters who turned out, 54.8% voted for DEMOS, the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia, who brought together the parties that had been founded in the year and a half before as part of the democratic movement that demanded an end to the one-party Communist regime. DEMOS formed a government which was appointed on 16 April with Lojze Peterle as prime minister.

The winner among individual parties was the League of Communists of Slovenia - Party of Democratic Renewal (ZKS-SDP), the precursor to today's Social Democrats (SD). The party won 14 seats in the socio-political chamber, which would evolve into today's lower chamber, the National Assembly.

However, with the exception of the chamber of associate labour, DEMOS won a convincing victory in the then Assembly, winning 47 out of the 80 seats in the socio-political chamber, of which 11 were secured by the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD).

Along with parliamentary elections, Slovenians also cast their vote for the chairman and four members of the collective presidency. Milan Kučan, the erstwhile Communist leader, was elected chairman after defeating DEMOS leader Jože Pučnik in the run-off on 22 April with 58.59% of the vote. Matjaž Kmecl, Ciril Zlobec, Dušan Plut and Ivan Oman were elected members of the presidency.

Looking back, Plut says the time of Slovenia's first democratic election marked two sets of political change; the political system's change to democracy and the country's becoming independent. The party that would not support those two key goals had little chance of wining voters' trust, he has told the STA.

Plut led the Slovenian Greens, the party that won 8.8% of the vote in the 1990 election, which he says was the highest share of the vote among all green parties in Europe. He believes the reason the Greens would not repeat the feat again was that the right-wing faction prevailed following the party's joining DEMOS, which meant a party naturally favoured by left-leaning voters lost its voter base.

Asked whether the situation would be different today had Pučnik won the presidential run-off, Plut does not think it likely: "The voters had obviously made a well thought-through decision for a balance. DEMOS won the assembly, while Kučan was elected presidency chairman. The latter had a host of political experience, which came very handy at the time."

"Could anything be different? I don't know. We can only guess," Kmecl says when offered the same question. Kmecl, a Slovenian language scholar, literary historian and author, remembers the time of the first democratic election as euphoric, "however, it hasn't brought what we all thought it would".

Above all, he had expected more solidarity. "Instead, it all ended in terrible egotism. I have always argued that neo-liberalism is harmful for small entities such as the Slovenian nation because it works only by the logic of quantity and power."

Plut agrees that not everything went the way it should have following independence. Most of all, he believes that Slovenia has failed to capitalise on its position as the most successful of all post-social countries in terms of economic indicators at the time.

"The entire politics, DEMOS included, soon forgot the key motive behind independence - increasing the prosperity of Slovenia's citizens. Hence the rapid increase in social and regional differences. There's no coincidence that public opinion polls show Slovenia hasn't realised the potential of independence," says Plut.

"In politics in general, the interests of individual political parties have too often been more important than people's prosperity. There's a lack of awareness that it is the politicians who are responsible for people's prosperity," says Plut.

All our stories tagged Slovenian history are here

05 Apr 2020, 12:25 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’sXenia Guzej. You can see more of here work here.

Contents

Coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rises to 28

Strict lockdown measures in Slovenia to last another 2-4 weeks

Foreigners write about their experience of the lockdown in Slovenia

Coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rises to 28

STA, 5 April 2020 - The coronavirus death toll rose by six to 28 on Saturday, as the number of confirmed cases increased to 997, up by 20 from the day before, show the latest statistics released by the government on Sunday. A total of 655 tests were conducted, for a total of 27,764.

While the death toll has been rising rapidly in recent days, hospital numbers have been mostly flat or even declining.

The number of persons in hospital with Covid-19 dropped by 1 to 108, having peaked at almost 120 at the end of March. Of those, 31 were in intensive care, the same number as the day before.

Jelko Kacin, the government spokesman for the coronavirus epidemic, said five patients had been released from hospital yesterday and 98 since the start of the epidemic.

Almost 200 residents of nursing homes are among those infected along with 48 health professionals working in nursing homes. A total of 156 health staff have been infected so far.

Slovenia confirmed its first coronavirus infection on 4 March and the first coronavirus death on 14 March.

The age structure of the fatalities has not been officially disclosed.

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Strict lockdown measures in Slovenia to last another 2-4 weeks

STA, 5 April 2020 - Strict lockdown measures that Slovenia introduced three weeks ago to fight the coronavirus epidemic are working and they will last "at least two to four weeks," only then will Slovenia consider starting relaxing the measures so that life may start returning to normal, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Sunday.

"Once we initiate relaxation measures, they will have to be carefully planned and measures, with the awareness that we will have to live with the virus and the epidemic for a while," Kacin, the spokesman for the coronavirus epidemic, said at the government's daily media briefing.

His words were echoed by Bojana Beović, an infectious disease specialist who heads the Health Ministry's medical task force for coronavirus. She said Slovenia was handling the epidemic well due to the strict measures and hospitals have not been overwhelmed yet, but she said this was merely "an intermediate objective".

The curves have been flattened and the epidemic has been brought into a "stationary state" but "we have not yet been able to reverse the trend". Reversing the curve will depend on government measures as well as the actions of each individual, she said.

Slovenia reported 28 confirmed coronavirus deaths by Saturday, up by six in a day, whereas the number of confirmed infections increased by just 20 to 997.

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04 Apr 2020, 20:31 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Igor Andjelić. You can see more of his work here.

Contents

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

No major violations of new movement restrictions

Austria partly opening Holmec border crossing

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

STA, 4 April 2020 - Two more deaths related to the new coronavirus in Slovenia were recorded on Friday, putting the death toll at 22. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 43 to 977 in a day, the government said on Twitter.

A total of 1,188 tests were performed yesterday. The number of hospitalised persons dropped from 112 to 109, while the number of patients in intensive care rose by one to 31.

According to coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin, ten people were released from hospital on Friday.

The country's biggest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, had 49 Covid-19 patients today, including 14 in intensive care, the hospital said on Twitter.

The Celje hospital reported of 16 patients on Twitter this morning, of whom five were in intensive care. Two patients were released today.

Old-age facilities remain a hotspot of the disease in the country, with the number of persons infected in these facilities rising by 16 to 195 on Friday. Among staff, 42 people were infected, seven more than on Thursday, show data from the Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

The first coronavirus test in Slovenia was conducted on 27 January. Until the first infection was confirmed, 313 tests were performed per infection. Between 4 March and Friday, additional 27.109 tests were conducted.

Medical staff has been warning they are under tremendous pressure and will not be able to keep up like this for much longer. If the functioning of the health system in other areas will be this restricted for long, this could cause more deaths in the long-term than coronavirus, they warn.

Staff in intensive care is particularly burdened. According to Tomaž Vovk, a specialist in dialectology and intensive care, who works with Covid-19 patients at UKC Ljubljana, doctors are working 12-hour shifts and treat three to four times more patients than normal.

"Another problem is the protective gear. In order to make full use of it, we sometimes work in it for five, six or seven hours without a break, which means we cannot go to the toilet or drink," he told the STA.

He said the situation was currently still manageable but if it continued for a long time, it would become too much to handle. "Everyone who needs intensive care receive it. We have enough time available to treat these patients," he said.

He welcomed all state measures to contain the epidemic and people's cooperation. "We do not wish to be in a situation where we would not be able to offer intensive care to these patients and would be forced to chose between patients," he said.

Epidemiologist of the National Public Health Institute Tit Albreht and GP from the Celje community health centre Katarina Skubec Moćić meanwhile pointed to the needs of citizens who are not infected with coronavirus but have other health problems.

American analyses have shown that if only as many people got ill as the health system can handle then the epidemic would last for 18 months. But if the public health system were paralysed in this way for 18 months then other medical conditions and chronic diseases could kill more people than the virus, Albreht said.

Skubec Moćić warned that people have the same health problems as before the epidemic while the accessibility of health services was much lower. "The pressure on patients and medical staff is stepping up by the day. I think next three weeks will be crucial to see whether the measures we have adopted were sufficient," she said.

The virus is not going to simply disappear, so it would make sense to slowly start providing certain health services again in a controlled area, she believes.

However, ensuring enough protective gear has been one of the main challenges of this epidemic for all countries not just Slovenia. The country continues to receive shipments of protective gear but Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan said today they sufficed only to cover day-to-day needs, primarily in health.

Today, a shipment of 336,000 three-pleat masks and 10,800 protective suits arrived, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek announced on Twitter. On Friday, he said three millions of three-pleat masks were in, and on Thursday 19,500 FFP2 masks arrived.

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No major violations of new movement restrictions

STA, 4 April 2020 - Police were checking compliance with movement restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus across the country, detecting no major violations on Saturday. Increased oversight will continue the entire weekend, focussing on popular tourist spots.

Police are patrolling public surfaces and checking passengers at motorways and other roads. Officers are also responding to reports of alleged violations from citizens.

People are mostly honouring restrictions, police say.

Since the new movement restrictions stepped into force on 30 March, confining citizens to their home municipalities, 836 warnings have been issued and in just over 1,000 cases violations were reported to the health inspectorate, which can issue fines.

Police officers working on the border have not been transferred inland yet to help check compliance with movement restrictions, as there has been no need for this so far, said acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner as he visited the Fernetiči border crossing with Italy today.

"At this point, Slovenian police has the situation under control but as the disease progresses the situation will surely change," he said.

He believes there is not enough police officers to respond to multiple challenges, related to the new coronavirus on the one hand and the issue of migrations on the other.

According to him, the army could be very helpful in controlling the migrations to help police. Since the entire population is becoming infected with coronavirus, Travner expects police officers to get infected as well. "Perhaps even in greater numbers, because they are much more exposed than ordinary population."

Travner hopes 700-800 troops could help out police exclusively on the border in dealing with migrants.

About 1,000 police officers are conducting tasks related to movement restrictions due to coronavirus around the country on a daily basis.

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Austria partly opening Holmec border crossing

STA, 4 April 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg have agreed that the Holmec border crossing, which Austria recently closed as it put in place additional restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus, will be partly open as of Monday so as not to cause problems for Slovenians commuting to work to Austria.

Holmec is very important for the people in the Slovenian border region Koroška, many of whom use it for their daily commute to work in Austria, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said.

This is why diplomatic efforts had been under way the past few days to keep the crossing at least partly open.

The ministers agreed it will be open between 5am and 8am and 3pm and 6pm.

"Austria's move reflects its flexibility in respect to the needs of the people living on the border, and we see it as a sign of neighbourly cooperation in the times of crisis and stepping up of measures in the pandemic of the new coronavirus," the ministry said.

On Thursday, Austria closed Holmec along with several other border crossings. The move upset the people from the Mežiška valley who would subsequently have to commute to work to Austria through the Vič border crossing, which however is open only between 5am and 11pm, which means those who start work in Austria early would be late for work.

The region's mayors have thus appealed to the ministries of foreign and interior affairs for the crossing to remain open just like the other two crossings connecting the region with Austria, Radelj and Vič.

Austria had initially closed dozens of crossing points as of 18 March. On 27 March Slovenia reintroduced police checks on what is the EU's internal border and introduced 13 points of crossing.

There are now restrictions in place on all of Slovenia's borders, either introduced by Slovenia or by the neighbouring countries.

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04 Apr 2020, 12:46 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Saška Grušovnik. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

Vulnerable groups to shop one hour more from today

Flour, rice and pasta top sellers amid Covid-19

Minister excited about efforts to increase food self-sufficiency amid crisis

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

STA, 4 April 2020 - Two more deaths related to the new coronavirus in Slovenia were recorded on Friday, putting the death toll at 22. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 43 to 977 in a day, the government said on Twitter.

A total of 1,188 tests were performed yesterday. The number of hospitalised persons dropped from 112 to 109, while the number of patients in intensive care rose by one to 31.

According to coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin, ten people were released from hospital on Friday.

The first coronavirus test in Slovenia was conducted on 27 January. Until the first infection was confirmed, 313 tests were performed per infection. Between 4 March and Friday, additional 27.109 tests were conducted.

On Friday, 6,348 members of the civil protection and relief forces were activated to deal with the epidemic, data from the Information Centre show.

Medical staff is warning they are under tremendous pressure and will not be able to keep up like this for much longer. If the functioning of the health system in other areas will be this restricted for long, this could cause more deaths in the long-term than coronavirus, they warn.

Staff in intensive care is particularly burdened. According to Tomaž Vovk, a specialist in dialectology and intensive care, who works with Covid-19 patients at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, doctors are working 12-hour shifts and treat three to four times more patients than normal.

"Another problem is the protective gear. In order to make full use of it, we sometimes work in it for five, six or seven hours without a break, which means we cannot go to the toilet or drink," he told the STA.

He said the situation was currently still manageable but if the situation continued for a long time, it would become too much to handle. "Everyone who needs intensive care receive it. We have enough time available to treat these patients," he said.

He welcomed all state measures to contain the epidemic and people's cooperation. "We do not wish to be in a situation where we would not be able to offer intensive care to these patients and would be forced to chose between patients," he said.

Epidemiologist of the National Public Health Institute Tit Albreht and GP from the Celje community health centre Katarina Skubec Moćić meanwhile pointed to the needs of citizens who are not infected with coronavirus but have other health problems.

American analyses have shown that if only as many people got ill as the health system can handle then the epidemic would last for 18 months. But if the public health system were thus paralysed for 18 months then other medical conditions and chronic diseases could kill more people than the virus, Albreht said.

Skubec Moćić warned that people have the same health problems as before the epidemic while the accessibility of services was much lower. "The pressure on patients and medical staff is stepping up by the day. I think next three weeks will be crucial to see whether the measures we have adopted were sufficient," she said.

The virus is not going to simply disappear, so it would make sense to slowly start providing certain health services again in a controlled area, she believes.

Back to the contents

Vulnerable groups to shop one hour more from today

STA, 4 April 2020 - Vulnerable groups such as the disabled, pensioners and pregnant women are being given one more dedicated shopping hour from Saturday after being so far encouraged to shop for supplies only between 8am and 10am to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.

Under a decision taken by the government last night, two time slots will be reserved for vulnerable groups from Saturday, between 8am and 10am, and between 5pm and 6pm, when shops close.

Pensioners will be allowed to shop only during those times, the Government Communication Office said.

The extra hour comes after several associations called for a longer time slot dedicated to vulnerable groups, including the Trade Union of Pensioners and the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). DeSUS proposed an additional time slot between 1pm and 3pm.

The party argued that offering only the two-hour morning slot to more than 650,000 people was not appropriate.

On Thursday, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik and the association Silver Lining called for extension of the time slot reserved for those most at risk from 8am to noon.

The government amended the decree at today's correspondence session and the new version was already published in the Official Gazette.

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Flour, rice and pasta top sellers amid Covid-19

STA, 4 April 2020 - Sales of flour, rice and pasta rose more than four-fold in Slovenia in the week from 9 to 15 March compared to the same period last year, data by Nielsen agency shows. Cereal, canned meat, and pre-made sauces and soups recorded a growth rate of between 200% and 300%.

This was in the week when the government declared a coronavirus epidemic on 12 March, when residents were becoming more worried about the outbreak and potential food shortages.

Retailers in Slovenia recorded a 67% jump in the value of sales compared to the comparable week last year, that is from 11 to 17 March 2019.

The value of foods sold at shops around the country increased by 64% and the value of goods other than food by 77%.

Soaps and plastic gloves were also in big demand, posting a rise of 200% to 300%, with glove sales further rising by almost 400% in the week from 16 to 22 March.

Consumers also bought increasing amounts of toilet paper and washing powder, while alcohol drinks posted a drop.

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Minister excited about efforts to increase food self-sufficiency amid crisis

STA, 4 April 2020 - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec hailed on Friday a decision by a company growing orchids to also start growing vegetables as a case of rapid adaptation that can serve as an example to others on how to increase food self-sufficiency in the country in these times of crisis and in general. She announced government measures to facilitate this.

Paying a visit to Ocean Orchids, which decided to use its greenhouses to also grow salad and plans to expand to other vegetables if the situation demands it, Pivec spoke of a successful practice that was a response to the crisis.

Ocean Orchids Roman Ferenčak said that the technology available made it possible to convert such greenhouses for this purpose practically overnight.

The main message is that greenhouses provide the key answer to the crisis Slovenia is in, as the country has very poor self-sufficiency when it comes to vegetables, Ferenčak added.

The pair discussed the legal aspects of greenhouses, whose status has been subject to different interpretations.

Pivec said that the government was looking into the matter and added that "if we are talking about facilities that are meant for other types of production but can be redirected to food production fast, we need to adjust all procedures involved in setting up such agricultural objects".

The minister announced an action plan that would quickly encourage food growers to expand production. The phasing of EU funds will be adjusted to this purpose as well, she said, adding it needed to proceed as fast as possible and without unnecessary bureaucracy.

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04 Apr 2020, 11:22 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 3 April 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Govt using coronavirus to push its own agenda

STA, 3 April 2020 - Commenting on the government's actions in the light of the coronavirus epidemic, the left-wing weekly Mladina argues that Prime Minister Janez Janša is capitalising on the coronavirus crisis and driving his own political agenda by proposing extreme measures that use people's fears to appear warranted.

One would hope that Janša has learned his lesson after three "thunderous falls from power", that he "finally knows he must respect democracy, the existence of different opinions, that experts' opinions are professional even if people have different political beliefs, and most notably, that in this country one cannot rule this way".

When he started showing first signs of doing just that, driving disproportionate measures to bend Slovenia's society to his will, it was first thought that the extreme times called for a bit tougher ruling methods to ensure that citizens internalise Covid-19 containment measures or it was said that the government was still finding its feet during difficult circumstances.

However, the situation has escalated quickly, says the commentary headlined Propaganda War, adding that Janša's party, the Democrats' (SDS), is truly admiring the developments in Hungary.

History teaches us that there is plenty of people who "want to have absolute power and who actually see democracy as something which limits them. And that such people are currently leading quite a few countries".

"Everything that seems like a bad version of a grotesque is true," says Mladina, listing a few examples when Janša pushed his own agenda of "transforming this nation into one great SDS party", such as convincing people that some citizens were actually flocking to tourist spots over last weekend.

Some media found families and individuals at the seaside and lakeside resorts, but they talked about "an invasion". The government knew this did not actually happen - "the police issued only some 90 warnings across Slovenia, and only a few in the Gorenjska and Primorska regions" which are deemed the most popular for weekend trips, but the situation nevertheless paved the way for a ban on movement outside municipal units.

On top of that, the government's coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin scolded couples and families for sitting closely to each other on benches in parks as if they were children.

The weekly wonders why such conduct is tolerated if families are after all allowed to stay together during the crisis. Moreover, it also points out that the government has made a clear distinction between couples and "couples" by laying down that only those living in shared households are allowed to be with each other during the lockdown.

After the introduction of the municipal ban, children of divorced parents are not even allowed to see the other parent if they live in another municipality.

Mladina hence argues that the government is "abusing the epidemic of a dangerous virus for its own political purposes", capitalising on our fears and distress.

Such actions should not be tolerated, particularly in such circumstances, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž, adding that relevant data show citizens are actually respecting the restrictions and should deserve praise for that.

Demokracija: Condemns media critical of govt

STA, 2 April 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija is critical in its commentary on Thursday of "leftist mainstream media attacking the centre-right government willy-nilly with heavy artillery". It says this reaction is understandable because anti-coronavirus measures have not only been well-received by the people, but also undermine the leftists' agenda.

This agenda is known as cultural Marxism and is based on the undermining of traditional values. These ideas have long been spread by a variety of NGOS, mostly founded and funded by George Soros, the weekly's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Resurrection.

"Now this delusional dream of Slovenia again becoming a swampy socialist community, are bursting... The hardest blow being that LGBT activists and retarded social scientists can no longer brainwash students."

Now, for at least a few months, upbringing in back in "the right hands - the hands of parents". Parents must build a mental wall in the heads of their offspring so that "no degenerate leftist idea will ever again come near the brains of our descendants".

Children must come to understand that there are only two sexes and that each has its own historical burden in preserving a nation. They must understand that "hordes of foreigners from Africa and the Mohammedan world cannot replace noble Slovenian women and courageous Slovenian men".

"These days, luckily, we are witnessing a slight turning in Slovenia back to the family, religion, patriotism, the almost forgotten principles, above all there can again be seen a return to values that allowed the Slovenian nation to survive."

Demokracija says leftist media fear that Slovenia would wake up a different nation after the coronavirus epidemic. "Not a dictatorship, a threat they have been using to scare the people, but a country of free people, who showed in isolation their true solidarity and brought back humble pray to God."

"This will be a renewed resurrection, in which progressive 'rebellion' will disappear and Slovenia will be on its way to a new future, where nothing will be out of reach of hard-working hands."

All our posts in this series are here

03 Apr 2020, 21:41 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Xenia Guzej. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Highest increase in coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday

Govt restricts use of certain drugs, calls for donations

SDS MEPs donating share of pay for Covid-19 relief, PM urges others to follow suit

Slovenia donates protective equipment to North Macedonia

Highest increase in coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday

STA, 3 April 2020 - Four more deaths related to the new coronavirus in Slovenia were recorded on Thursday, the highest daily increase so far, and another patient died on Friday, increasing the overall death toll to 21. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 37 to 934, the government has announced.

The Maribor UKC hospital reported its first Covid-19 deaths today, saying that a patient from a nursing home died at the hospital on Thursday and another patient on Friday. Both were elderly.

"Sadly, I must report the first two fatalities. One is a person who had been in our intensive care unit for a while, and another was moved here yesterday from an old-age home outside our region," UKC Maribor medical director Matjaž Vogrin said.

Details about other fatalities are not available, but the first reported fatalities were residents of nursing homes, which have become the coronavirus hotspot in the country.

Data released by the Health Ministry show that a total of 177 nursing home residents were infected as of Thursday, 15 more than the day before.

Health Ministry data also show that 128 health workers are infected.

As of Thursday, 112 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, 30 of them in intensive treatment units, five were discharged from hospital, the government said on Twitter earlier.

A total of 1,064 tests were performed yesterday to put the overall number at 25,921.

As many as 135 of Slovenia's 212 municipalities have recorded at least one confirmed infection and 85 recorded two or more cases.

While the capital Ljubljana still has the highest number of cases, at 158, up three in a day, the outbreaks elsewhere are centred around care homes.

The biggest jump in new cases was recorded in Ljutomer in the north-east of the country, by eight to 46. All eight new cases were at the old-age facility there where now 41 are infected.

To contain the spread, fifteen healthy residents of the facility who are able to look after themselves have been moved to be quarantined at the apartments of the tourist complex Bioterme Mala.

The biggest hot spot is at the care home at Šmarje pri Jelšah, where 60 residents and 15 staff were infected according to data as of Wednesday.

Only data for the whole Šmarje pri Jelšah community are available for Thursday showing that the number of infections there rose by four to 116.

Another hot spot is a nursing home in Horjul, a community just west of Ljubljana that saw its tally of cases rise by two to 26 on Thursday.

As of Wednesday 19 of the infected were residents at the nursing home and four were staff, who have been quarantined at home.

Out of seven residents tested on Thursday, two were positive, the Horjul facility manager said on Friday, which would put the total number of the infected there to 21, plus four staff.

The Horjul facility manager said that four of the residents who fell ill with Covid-19 were being treated at hospital.

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Govt restricts use of certain drugs, calls for donations

STA, 3 April 2020 - The government has restricted the usage of drugs containing chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine or azithromycin to make sure enough of those substances are available to patients who need them. It has also tasked the Agency for Medicines to call on companies to donate to the public health system drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients.

The government said on Friday that due to the spreading of coronavirus infections the prescribing of medications with the three substances, which are principally used for the treatment of other conditions but have proven to be effective in the treatment of Covid-19, has increased.

Until further notice, prescribing these medications for personal use and their over-the-counter sale will be banned.

Thus, the government wants to make sure that sufficient amounts of drugs containing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are available to patients with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus, who urgently need them.

The government also wants to prevent the overuse of azithromycin, which could potentially lead to bacteria developing resistance to the drug, and deficiency of the drug on the market.

The relevant decree adopted today will enter into force after it is published in the Official Gazette.

The cabinet also tasked the Agency for Medicines last night to call on companies to donate to the public health system drugs that have proven effective in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

According to the Government Communication Office, the UKC Ljubljana hospital will collect data on the drugs needed at hospitals around the country at least once a month and forward them to the agency to enable optimal distribution, including of donations.

UKC will be collecting data on drugs containing hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, remdesivir, favipiravir, umipiravir, tocilizumab, systemic interferons/IFN beta-1-alpha, siltuksimab and sarilumab.

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SDS MEPs donating share of pay for Covid-19 relief, PM urges others to follow suit

STA, 3 April 2020 - MEPs Milan Zver and Romana Tomc of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) announced on Friday they would donate 30% of their pay to fight the Covid-19 disease. Prime Minister Janez Janša responded by praising the move and calling on other Slovenian top officials in EU institutions and around the world to follow their example.

Zver and Tomc (SDS/EPP) decided to give up a share of their pay even though the umbrella anti-crisis law, endorsed on Thursday, does not envisage such pay cuts for MEPs.

"I expect a similar gesture from the rest of Slovenian (and foreign) officials holding well-paid jobs in the EU and around the world," said Janša, who also expects a similar gesture of judges and the editors of major media not affected by the 30% pay cut imposed by the law.

Tomc urged her colleagues and other appointees to EU institutions to join her in this step as well.

Zver explicitly stated on his Twitter account that he would be donating the share as of April and until the end of the epidemic is declared.

Meanwhile, MEP Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D) as well as MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (RENEW/LMŠ) responded by saying they had not been sharing their donations for coronavirus relief publicly.

Franc Bogovič (SLS/EPP) tweeted that he had made his contribution three weeks ago to a special account of the Red Cross.

"In the meantime I've helped those affected directly. I make monthly transfers (youth charity, UNICEF), I also respond to many charity campaigns. I'll also donate into the budget," tweeted Bogovič, adding that he was not in the habit of making his donations public each time.

Joveva said that she did not need any calls for her previous donations nor would she need them in the future, while Grošelj pointed out that he did not want publicity at the expense of others' distress.

In a Facebook post Joveva said that she and Bogovič had already stated in a web discussion yesterday that they would not have a problem taking a 30% pay cut and were making donations.

Similarly, Milan Brglez (SD/S&D) said that he did not publicly communicate about his donations or charitable activities.

Fajon exchanged a few words with Tomc on Twitter, reminding the SDS MEP that she recently said charity was not charity if it meant publicity. Tomc replied that this was something else because it showed solidarity and highlighted that everybody was in the same boat.

Under the coronavirus umbrella law a 30% pay cut awaits holders of public office in Slovenia, but not mayors and judges.

The Slovenian Association of Judges said earlier this week that it had opened a special account for judges to donate a share of their pay to fight the epidemic.

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Slovenia donates protective equipment to North Macedonia

STA, 3 April 2020 - Slovenia has donated to North Macedonia protective equipment worth EUR 110,000 to help the country fight the new coronavirus, the Slovenian Defence Ministry said on Friday. The package for the Macedonian Interior Ministry includes 100,000 protective masks and 100,000 protective gloves, the Macedonian press agency MIA reported.

"The donation comes at a crucial moment. I'd like to thank Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and our Slovenian friends. Every donation counts and will help our daily efforts to protect police officers working round the clock who are exposed to the risk of infection with the new coronavirus," said Interior Minister Nakje Chulev, who accepted the shipment at Skopje airport today.

Slovenian Ambassador to North Macedonia Milan Jazbec was also present. "I am honoured that we are the first EU and NATO member to have made a bilateral donation to the police force," he was quoted as saying by MIA.

According to the Slovenian Defence Ministry, Slovenia has responded to a request for aid that North Macedonia addressed through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chulev said that his ministry was currently focusing on exercising oversight of the implementation of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, and on providing enough protective gear for its staff.

According to data by the Macedonian Health Ministry, 430 coronavirus infections have so far been recorded in the country, while 13 people have died.

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03 Apr 2020, 14:20 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists and designers. Today it’s Lara Orel Pogačar, a student at ALUO - Akademija za likovno umetnost in oblikovanje. You can see more of this series of posters here.

Contents

Highest increase in coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday

Relaunch of business activities conditional on protective equipment

Police to oversee adherence to epidemic restrictions at weekend

Florist shops and nurseries to reopen today

Govt already working on stimulus package No. 2

Highest increase in coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday

STA, 3 April 2020 - Four more deaths related to the new coronavirus in Slovenia were recorded on Thursday, the highest daily increase so far, putting the death toll at 20. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 37 to 934, the government has announced.

A total of 1,064 tests were performed yesterday to put the overall number at 25,921. The number of hospitalised persons is at 112, 30 of whom are in intensive care, five have been discharged from hospital, the government said on Twitter.

As many as 135 of Slovenia's 212 municipalities have recorded at least one confirmed infection and 85 recorded two or more cases.

While the capital Ljubljana still has the highest number of cases, at 158, up three in a day, the outbreaks elsewhere are centred around care homes.

The biggest jump in new cases was recorded in Ljutomer in the north-east of the country, by eight to 46. All eight new cases were at the old-age facility there where now 41 are infected.

To contain the spread, fifteen healthy residents of the facility who are able to look after themselves have been moved to be quarantined at the apartments of the tourist complex Bioterme Mala.

The biggest hot spot is at the care home at Šmarje pri Jelšah, where 60 residents and 15 staff were infected according to data as of Wednesday.

Only data for the whole Šmarje pri Jelšah community are available for Thursday showing that the number of infections there rose by four to 116.

Another hot spot is a nursing home in Horjul, a community just west of Ljubljana that saw its tally of cases rise by two to 26 on Thursday.

As of Wednesday 19 of the infected were residents at the nursing home and four were staff, who have been quarantined at home.

Out of seven residents tested on Thursday, two were positive, the Horjul facility manager said on Friday, which would put the total number of the infected there to 21, plus four staff.

The Horjul facility manager said that four of the residents who fell ill with Covid-19 were being treated at hospital.

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Relaunch of business activities conditional on protective equipment

STA, 3 April 2020 - The government is examining how to gradually restart the economy amidst the lockdown, but in order to do so a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment must be secured, the government's spokesman for the coronavirus epidemic, Jelko Kacin, told the press on Friday. The goal is to domestically produce 100,000 masks daily.

"The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology is prioritising domestic production of protective equipment that would be available to workers," he said, adding that the business sector was behind only healthcare and nursing homes when it came to the distribution of protective equipment.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek yesterday visited several companies that produce protective gear. "Our intention is to secure at least 100,000 face masks daily from local production." The number has already been achieved, Kacin said, but added that "demand will be high".

Počivalšek yesterday visited Prevent&Deloza, a maker of protective equipment that he said is already producing 10,000 washable face masks daily according to a design approved by UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest hospital.

Several other companies that do not specialise in protective equipment have started producing masks in recent weeks, including car upholstery maker Boxmark in Kidričevo, which produces over 6,000 face masks daily for the national stockpile, and several other major textile companies which have not disclosed their output.

Dozens of small sewing businesses around the country have joined the effort as well and many municipalities have already started distributing face masks to residents, usually of the washable variety.

At the same time, efforts continue on an ongoing basis to secure enough protective equipment for the hospital setting.

Počivalšek said on Twitter today that a million three-layer masks had just been delivered to the Commodity Reserves Institute's main warehouse in Ljubljana. Earlier this week a million surgical masks and 200,000 of the higher-grade FFP2 masks had been delivered from Czechia.

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Police to oversee adherence to epidemic restrictions at weekend

STA, 3 April 2020 - Starting today and all through Sunday, the police will be preventing people from gathering in public places and controlling whether they leave their place of residence. This comes after tourist destinations were overflowing last weekend and the government decided to restrict movement to place of residence in an effort to rein in Covid-19 contagion.

The police said on its website last night that adhering to the restrictions in place is of utmost importance for the benefit of everybody.

The oversight will be conducted on motorways and other roads, as well as in other locations, especially near popular destinations.

The police has also set up a hotline to help those with questions about the restrictions. The hotline is available every day of the week between 7am and 7pm at 01 514 70 01. Questions can also be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Florist shops and nurseries to reopen on Friday

STA, 3 April 2020 - Florist shops and nurseries will reopen on Friday, a day after the government decided to add them to the list of exemptions to restrictions that shut down most non-essential businesses in Slovenia in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. Moreover, construction work where there is no contact to the client will also be allowed from Friday.

The government decided to allow florists' and nurseries to reopen because spring is a peak selling time for these businesses that invested a lot of funds and work in growing seedlings and other plants, which would go to waste unless they are sold, the government Communications Office said after a correspondence session on Thursday.

Moreover, construction work will be allowed at construction sites that are not used as living spaces and where the workers have no contact with the clients.

Nevertheless, those involved will be obligated to use face masks and gloves and to keep a safe distance from others.

Consumers can only go to the nearest florist or nursery. If there is no such business in the municipality of their residence, they may cross into another municipality.

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Govt already working on stimulus package No. 2

STA, 3 April 2020 - The government will discuss on Friday guidelines for a second fiscal stimulus package after its first, EUR 3 billion bill was passed in parliament on Thursday. The new measures will bring some corrections to the law passed yesterday and new measures to address liquidity, investment and employment legislation.

Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj announced at the start of the week that the government was already working on additional measures to mitigate the coronavirus crisis.

"Once we have mitigated the negative consequences of the epidemic, we will encourage the economy, liquidity and investment, with new measures," he said.

The government is examining the proposals put forward by deputy groups to improve the first law, which was adopted in a hurry so it has some flaws, coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin told the press on Friday. "We want to examine, harmonise and prepare these things for the second package."

At the same time the government is examining possible measures to boost the economy's liquidity, he said, noting these two groups of measures will be "the core of the second package".

The government would like to adopt the second bill in ten days, and then immediately send it to parliament, he explained at today's first government media briefing.

The government will be helped by the advisory task force led by economist Matej Lahovnik, which also advised it on the first package, according to economist Marko Jaklič, a member of the task force.

He said the task force had split into three groups - one focusing on liquidity, another on labour market and flexicurity and the third one on investment.

The liquidity group has already embarked on work so the set of measure to boost liquidity of Slovenian companies should be ready shortly, he told the Odmevi news show on public broadcaster TV Slovenija last evening.

The second group will draft measures that are to address the challenges on the labour market after 1 June, according to Jaklič.

The measures featured in the EUR 3 billion coronavirus law passed yesterday are valid from mid-March when the epidemic was declared until end-May, possibly a month longer.

Trade unions are however upset that the government continues to ignore social dialogue.

The ZSSS association thus urged Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj today to involve the Economic and Social Council, the country's main industrial relations forum, in drafting the new measures, at least those related to the labour market.

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03 Apr 2020, 13:17 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 27 March
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša called for joint EU action to fight the coronavirus crisis as he attended an EU summit via a videoconference on 26 March. "The scale of the crisis is truly large and may have grave and fateful effects on the cohesion of the EU and the economic and monetary union," he was quoted as saying by the Government Communication Office.
        LJUBLJANA - 52 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed but no new deaths recorded in Slovenia, putting the national total of infected persons at 684 and death toll at nine. The infected included 83 residents and 23 staff at care homes. 90 patients were at hospitals, of whom 25 in intensive case.
        LJUBLJANA - The government announced all Slovenians returning to Slovenia from coronavirus hotspots would be put into state-administrated quarantine. As a result, a group of over 40 Slovenian citizens who were flown in from Spain late on 26 March, were not sent into self-isolation but quarantined in a hotel in Velenje for two weeks.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU ministers in charge of development and European cohesion policy, among them Slovenia's Zvonko Černač, appealed to the European Commission to come up with a second set of measures enabling more flexibility in the phasing of EU funds to tackle the coronavirus epidemic ramifications.
        LJUBLJANA - In the wake of production shutdowns and public life grinding to a halt, electricity consumption in Slovenia dropped by 3.89% between 12 and 26 March compared to the same period in 2019, data from the state-owned electricity distribution system operator SODO showed.
        LJUBLJANA - The government concluded a contract with the state-owned Kopp Izobraževanje company to provide maritime piloting services in the port of Koper as a public service. So far these services had been provided by private company Piloti Koper. Under the decree, the contract is concluded for up to ten years.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Agency measured record high concentrations of around 400 microgrammes per cubic metre of harmful PM10 particles around Slovenia as Saharan dust reached Europe. The allowed level is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre.

SATURDAY, 28 March
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a EUR 3 billion fiscal stimulus package meant to mitigate the impact of coronavirus for businesses and households. While upgrading support measures for companies like pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, tax and loan payment deferrals and adding things like loan guarantees and financing of social contributions, the scheme was expanded to include temporary basic income for the self-employed and allowances for pensioners, large families and students. The package includes bonuses for vital staff and a pay cut for public office holders. The measures would apply for two months but could be extended.
        LJUBLJANA - Two persons died in Slovenia as a result of Covid-19, putting the total number at eleven. The number of confirmed cases rose by 46 to 730, with the increase comparing to 52 on Friday and 70 on Thursday. The number of hospitalised patients increased by 11 to 101, 23 of whom need intensive care.
        LJUBLJANA - The first confirmed case of coronavirus in a prisoner in Slovenia was confirmed as Slovenia's largest incarceration facility in Dob said one inmate had fallen ill.
        LJUBLJANA - More than 58% of those polled trust the government is doing the right thing amid the coronavirus epidemic, with 22% not trusting it, a poll released by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer showed. Over 55% said the planned government measures to help business, sole proprietors and the self-employed were sufficient, around 25% consider them inadequate and 20% said they were not familiar well enough with them to comment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian spas, closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus epidemic, estimate "an alarming 30-35% loss of revenue this year", Association of Slovenian Natural Spas director Iztok Altbauer told the STA.
        LJUBLJANA - Under a decree published in the Official Gazette, Slovenian air traffic will remain severely restricted as the government extended the 17 March ban on passenger flights. Flights to and from non-EU countries are banned until further notice while flights to and from EU destinations remain suspended until 13 April.

SUNDAY, 29 March
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 26 to 756, but there were no new deaths, so the death toll remained at eleven. 115 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, 28 of them in intensive treatment units. As many as 108 of those who tested positive were health workers, 24 of them at care homes.
        LJUBLJANA - A law allowing a one-month suspension of a prison sentence and an early release of prisoners up to six months before the end of their sentence entered into force. Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič announced on 30 March that prison sentences had been suspended for 68 persons and an additional 15 prisoners had been released early under the measures in administrative matters to contain the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor honoured those helping society to function as normally as possible amid the coronavirus epidemic with the Apple of Inspiration. At a symbolic ceremony in an empty hall at the Presidential Palace, he said their selfless contribution inspired hope.

MONDAY, 30 March
        LJUBLJANA - Stricter movement restrictions confining residents to their home municipality except in few exceptions such as going to work kicked in under a 29 March decree to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The government decided to step up the restrictions following reports of people continuing to visit popular weekend destinations despite being advised to stay home. Face masks also became mandatory in closed public spaces. The measures, including disinfecting of multi-apartment buildings, were on 31 March criticised as unnecessary by National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) acting head Ivan Eržen, noting they had not been coordinated with NIJZ.
        LJUBLJANA - Trade unions and businesses largely welcomed the EUR 3 billion bill to help the economy and society cope with the coronavirus crisis as a way of averting massive layoffs. However, the unions said certain groups had been left out and the government had ignored social dialogue in adopting it. The Chamber of Commerce said it expected more liquidity-boosting measures to follow in the next similar aid package.
        LJUBLJANA - Opposition parties mostly voiced support for the government-sponsored EUR 3 billion stimulus package to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, with the left-leaning ones however criticising provisions giving police sweeping powers to control the movement of infected individuals. The parliament's legal service also highlighted a number of shortcomings in as many as two-thirds of the bill.
        LJUBLJANA - The Information Commissioner and the Human Rights Ombudsman warned against giving police sweeping powers to control the movement of infected individuals as part of the government fiscal stimulus bill in a bid to contain the epidemic. They said this would violate basic constitutional rights, turning Slovenia into a police state. The coalition partly heeded the criticism, withdrawing on 1 April the provision allowing the police to track people in quarantine without a court warrant, create photo robots and enter apartments. But the bill still allows the police to search for people, use photo facial recognition, set up road blocks, temporarily prevent the movement of people and collect and process sensitive personal data.
        LJUBLJANA - Business sentiment and consumer confidence in Slovenia plummeted in March amid the coronavirus epidemic; Statistics Office data showed the business sentiment index dropped to -3.7 percentage points, down 12.5 points year on year. The last time it was in the negative territory was in August 2014. Consumer confidence sunk to the lowest since May 2016, having declined 11 points since March 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - Housing prices rose by 5.2% in 2019, the fifth consecutive year of growth, data from the Statistics Office showed. The number of real estate transactions went up by 4%, while the value of the deals amounted to EUR 1.3 billion, up roughly 6% on 2018.

TUESDAY, 31 March
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's central bank Banka Slovenije said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Slovenian economy will likely be higher than in the last global financial crisis; it expects GDP to contract by between 6% and 16%, but it projection had not factored in emerging fiscal and monetary policy measures.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll rose to 15 as four people died on Monday and Tuesday, with the number of new coronavirus cases increasing by 46 to 802 on Monday and to 841 on Tuesday. The authorities said a quick look at the epidemic showed a more favourable situation than in Italy's worst hit areas, but still did not inspire optimism. Nursing homes remained the main hot spots, with 137 residents and 30 staff having contracted the disease.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation rate dropped to 0.5% in March from 2% in February. The prices of food, which were up 4.9%, contributed 0.7 of a percentage point to the annual inflation in March. On the monthly level, a deflation of 0.8% was recorded mainly due to lower electricity prices.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded a general government surplus of EUR 260 million or 0.5% of GDP in 2019 after already posting a EUR 330 million surplus in 2018. Expenditure growth, at 5.2%, was higher than revenue growth, at 4.8%. Consolidated debt decreased by EUR 479 million to EUR 31.7 billion or 66.1% of GDP, Statistics Office data showed.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) welcomed the proposed fiscal stimulus package, but noted that sports organisations in Slovenia had so far recorded a drop in expected revenue of more than EUR 25 million. A survey has also shown that around 800 full-time jobs in the sport industry are at risk.
        LJUBLJANA - The pan-European Europa Nostra organisation released a list of seven most endangered European cultural heritage sites for 2020, with a stadium designed by acclaimed 20th-century Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik also making the list.
        LJUBLJANA - Zdravljica, a poem written in the 1840s by Slovenia's France Prešeren to celebrates peace, freedom and fraternity, was awarded the European Heritage Label by the European Commission alongside nine other pieces of heritage which testify about European ideals, values, history and integration. The seventh stanza of Zdravljica, or A Toast in English, set to music by Stanko Premrl in 1905, was chosen to be Slovenia's national anthem in 1990.
        LJUBLJANA - DARS, the state-owned operator of Slovenia's motorway network, generated EUR 480.75 million in revenue last year, up 3.3% over 2018, but its net profit was down by 9.5% to EUR 139.61 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Tool maker group Unior saw its revenue rise by 3% to EUR 256 million last year, continuing a multi-year trend. Net profit dropped by 14% to EUR 10.4 million.

WEDNESDAY, 1 April
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Defence Committee rejected a government proposal to give the Slovenian Armed Forces limited police powers to control the border that the government said was essential to help relieve the burden on police officers so that they could better be deployed to help keep the coronavirus epidemic in check. The proposal to activate Article 37.a of the defence law was endorsed by coalition MPs and an opposition party, but this was not enough to secure the required two-thirds majority.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of coronavirus cases in Slovenia rose by 56 in a day to 897, with one more death and death toll at 16. This was out of 24,857 tests taken. As many as 162 of those infected are care home residents and 32 are care home staff.
        LJUBLJANA - Dozens Slovenians returned home on flights organised by the Foreign Ministry and were ordered a 14-day self-isolation; a plane from Lisbon carrying 16 Slovenians touched down, and another 20 arrived home from Thailand, the Philippines and Switzerland by bus from Zurich airport. The ministry said no more special flights would be organised from distant locations after 6 April.
        LJUBLJANA - Three teams of journalists of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija were assaulted in recent days; in two cases they were harassed verbally, and in another the company's vehicle was damaged. The incidents were condemned by the Journalists' Association (DNS) and politicians.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid discussed the coronavirus pandemic and measures to contain over the phone, agreeing on mutual assistance should the respective country need it. While endorsing measures taken by their government to curb the outbreak, Pahor and Kaljulaid stressed democratic values and the rule of law must be respected.
        NEW YORK, US - A group of Slovenians from the US boarded a special Hungarian plane in New York. After landing in Budapest, they were to be transported to the Hungarian-Slovenian border, where they were to be tested before going into a 14-day isolation or quarantine in Slovenia.
        NAZARJE - BSH Hišni Aparati, which was one of the first large manufacturers in Slovenia to halt production over the epidemic, is also among the first to resume business. The company, the largest producer of small household appliances in Europe, operated at 15% of capacity on Monday and hopes to be at 50% next week, its director Boštjan Gorjup told the buesiness newspaper Finance.
        LJUBLJANA - Robert Šumi, a researcher at the Police Academy, took over as the new head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption for a six-year term, replacing controversial Boris Štefanec, whose term ended in March.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia is yet to implement 13 rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which makes it one of the countries with the lowest number of such rulings, according to the Council of Europe's annual report on the supervision of the execution of the court's judgements and decisions for 2019.

THURSDAY, 2 April
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed by 53 votes to one a EUR 3 billion stimulus package aiming to cushion the impact of coronavirus on Slovenia's economy and society. The umbrella law brings financial assistance for companies and workers affected by the epidemic as well as for the self-employed, pensioners, students, large families and welfare recipients. It also includes a toned-down expansion of police powers. PM Janez Janša announced a second package which will include corrections to the first law, while a third one would set out an "exit strategy after the government takes a decision on the end of the epidemic."
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša called for a determined and coordinated action in the face of the coronavirus epidemic at national and European levels in an interview with the European Post. "In normal circumstances, and in principle, I am strongly against that those who perform better automatically support all others. But for this pandemic circumstances, issuing a common debt instrument would send out a strong signal of unity and solidarity," he said.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar expressed regret that Slovenia is lagging behind in NATO defence goals after taking part in a teleconferenced ministerial of the alliance. Talking over the phone to Slovenian reporters, he said that past governments should have given more funds to the military and regretted they had not carried out the planned military equipment acquisitions.
        LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije posted a group net profit of EUR 1.2 million for 2019, a fraction of the EUR 33.3 million it recorded in 2018, largely due to a one-off payment over a now dissolved media joint venture, Antenna TV SL. Group net sales stood at EUR 675.4 million, 6% below the 2018 level.
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisory board of NLB okayed the proposal of the management board to convene a shareholders meeting for 15 June. The country's leading bank, which was privatised last year, announced shareholders would vote on a proposal that the entire EUR 228.04 million in distributable profit remain undistributed for the time being.
        LJUBLJANA - Only nine out of 13 points on the Slovenian-Austrian border remain open after the Austrian government put in place additional restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus. The border points at Karavanke, Šentilj (the motorway and rail crossing), Gornja Radgona and Kuzma will operate around the clock.

All our posts in this series are here

02 Apr 2020, 22:02 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Igor Andjelić. You can see more of his work here, and I recommend following him to get more joy in your life.

Contents

Number of coronavirus cases rises by 56 to 897, 16 deaths confirmed

High-school leaving exams delayed, other problems tackled

Ban on road cargo traffic at weekends, holidays lifted

Poll shows increase in those deeming latest measures too strict

Number of coronavirus cases rises by 56 to 897, 16 deaths confirmed

STA, 2 April 2020 - The number of coronavirus cases in Slovenia rose by 56 in a day to stand at 897 by Wednesday midnight. So far 16 people have died from the disease. In the last 24 hours, 1,095 tests were conducted, the government said on Twitter.

A total of 112 patients were in hospitals around the country today, 29 of them in intensive care. Four persons were released from hospital in the last 24 hours and one person died.

So far, a total of 24,857 tests have been performed.

As many as 162 of those infected are elderly persons at care homes, the major virus hotspots in the country, their number increasing by 25 from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Data from the Labour Ministry also show that 32 staff at the facilities are infected, two more than the day before.

The largest outbreaks have been at the nursing homes at Šmarje pri Jelšah (NE), where at least 60 residents and 15 staff are infected according to data as of Wednesday, and Ljutomer (NE), where the infection spread from two to 33 people in just five days.

Concerns have been raised in Ljutomer for the safety of the town's 4,000 residents, with the care home there rejecting the allegations that it had put the residents, staff and the whole community at risk through inadequate response to the situation.

The first nursing home outbreak was in Metlika in the south but the situation there appears to have since stabilised because the infected were fast isolated. A total of 39 are infected there as of Wednesday.

Another hot spot is a nursing home in Horjul, a community just west of Ljubljana that saw its tally of cases rise by four to 24 on Wednesday, with 19 at the nursing home.

A further 11 are infected at the Bokalce unit of the old-age facility in the Ljubljana Vič Rudnik borough.

In order to prevent any further spread, the Labour Ministry sent instructions to all care homes today to set up three separate zones: one for healthy residents, one for residents suspected of being infected and one for the resident who have already tested positive.

In case of a Covid-19 infection among the residents at the facility, the staff must not move between healthy residents and those infected or suspected of being infected.

All care homes need to monitor the health of their staff and their families, which means all staff will need to measure their body temperature before coming in to work.

In case of a change in body temperature they will have to notify the person in charge, and will not be allowed to come back to work until the reason for the change in their health condition has been cleared.

In addition, old-age facilities need to form teams to handle residents in case of a Covid-19 outbreak, which should comprise the facility's official, GP, nurse, a public health specialist, a coordinator appointed by the minister and a senior nurse appointed by the Chamber of Nurses and Midwives.

However, the association of care homes is not happy with the proposed solutions, arguing that most homes could not set up such separate zones as proposed by the ministry, and even those who could could only do so when the number of infected was still were small.

The association said that nursing homes were not equipped or qualified to treat a large number of Covid-19 patients, and they oppose moving the healthy residents to other locations or home care.

They find it unacceptable that "part of the sick citizens should be treated at hospitals with all the necessary medical equipment and trained staff, while part of the ill elderly be cared at old-age facilities, which lack the required conditions". They believe thus would be a gross violation of human rights.

The municipalities with the biggest number of confirmed coronavirus cases are Ljubljana (182), followed by Šmarje pri Jelšah (112), Metlika (49) and Ljutomer (38).

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High-school leaving exams delayed, other problems tackled

STA, 2 April 2020 - More than two weeks after schools in Slovenia switched to remote learning due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Education Minister Simona Kustec announced secondary school-leaving exams would not be able to be carried out as scheduled.

Although the National Exam Centre has been reluctant to announce any changes in the dates so as to encourage students to take remote learning seriously, Kustec told the public broadcaster late last night that given the epidemic situation it was clear that the first part of the matura exams could not be conducted as planned.

The date for essay writing will probably be moved from early May to 30 May, she said on the late news show Odmevi.

The ministry later said that the matura exams were scheduled to start on 30 May, with more specific data not yet available.

The National Exam Centre (RIC) has proposed the dates of individual exams to remain as scheduled, with the exception of the Slovenian essay writing being moved to 1 June.

RIC director Darko Zupanc said the plan was for the students to sit the English exam on 30 May as planned, along with all other dates, except the Slovenian language essay.

Only art school performance exams are to be moved to June. The announcement of the matura exams is to be moved on from 13 July be about two weeks.

Zupanc would not speculate what happened if the measures taken to contain the epidemic were extended into May or June, arguing that speculation at this stage would be bad for students. But he said that a reserve scenario solutions were ready.

The minister stressed that both experts and representatives of students agreed that matura should nevertheless be carried out. "All scenarios we are working on, focus on going through with the exams," the minister said.

It will not be possible to meet the original deadlines, but the school year for final graders will conclude on 22 May as usual. "The exact dates and deadlines (of the exams) will depend on the coronavirus situation," Kustec said.

According to her, this means that higher education enrolment deadlines will be adjusted to the changes. If matura exams are carried out in the spring and autumn as usually, no major changes will be necessary, but if no exams will be able to be carried out in the spring then the enrolment deadlines will need to be extended.

Kustec said the ministry was also preparing various scenarios if this happens. "We'll find a way that will be acceptable and suitable in this situation," she said.

The first enrolment deadline for higher education institutions has already been extended from 18 March to 9 April.

Kustec indicated last weekend that the dates for national exams for primary schools might also need to be changed.

She said that the ministry was also working on solutions for other problems students encounter. Students who will not be able to carry out the practical part of their courses will pass if they pass the theoretical part of the course.

Higher education institutions will adjust their requirements and students who will not be able to meet their obligations because of the epidemic will have their status automatically extended for another year.

In research, projects that were due on 31 December will be extended for another year without any cuts to their annual funding, she said.

Kindergartens, which remain closed during the epidemic and can therefore not charge parents for their services, will receive compensation for labour and other costs from the state. The same goes for private kindergartens, which will receive compensation amounting to 85% of what parents pay for a child, Kustec said.

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Ban on road cargo traffic at weekends, holidays lifted

STA, 2 April 2020 - The Infrastructure Ministry has lifted the ban on road cargo traffic at weekends and holidays, with the measure being in force until the end of the coronavirus pandemic in Slovenia is declared.

The ban on cargo vehicles weighing above 7.5 tonnes was in force at weekends and holidays from 8am to 9pm. It would also apply on Friday, 10 April, between 2pm and 9pm because of the Easter holidays.

Announcing the lift on the ban, the ministry also said on Thursday that terminals at the port of Koper operated and other port services provided without disruption.

It added that the port operator Luka Koper had introduced all necessary measures to contain the spreading of new coronavirus and protect employees and other persons in the port area.

According to the ministry, rail freight transport runs smoothly at border crossing. Road cargo transport and transit transport through the port of Koper is also undisrupted despite certain restrictions in other countries and at border crossings.

Passenger transport has been meanwhile significantly reduced as the government also banned non-urgent travel between municipalities. The newspaper Primorske Novice reported today that traffic on Slovenian motorways had dropped by more than 60%.

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Poll shows increase in those deeming latest measures too strict

STA, 2 April 2020 - The latest public opinion survey by Valicon suggests an increasing number of Slovenians deem the latest government measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic too rigid, with the proportion of those who think so increasing to more than 20% from 7% a week ago. A vast majority also believe the situation is improving.

Moreover, the share of those saying that the measures are not strict enough dropped from 40% to 27%. Most respondents (53%) still believe that the measures are appropriate.

Meanwhile, overall optimism is accompanied by feelings of concern though. Some 70% are optimistic, saying that the situation is turning for the better, an increase compared to the previous survey (57%).

More than 40% think that extreme measures, including school closure and bans on movement and gatherings, will last for another two months, while some 20% believe that emergency circumstances will be over in a month.

On average, the respondents expect another 70 days of the current situation - until 11 June. A week ago, the expected deadline was 28 May.

Slovenians are still most concerned for their families (69%), although a bit less so compared to a poll conducted two weeks ago (81%).

Similarly, concern for their health decreased as well, dropping from 44% to 37%.

On the other hand, feelings of worry regarding the economic impact are on the rise, climbing from 43% to 51%.

Following the announcement of measures aimed at mitigating the fallout, the respondents expressed less concern over keeping their jobs, however in the past few days, such distress is again more prevalent, standing at almost 15%.

There has been detected a slight decrease in support for the anti-crisis umbrella bill. Some 40% of those polled find the stimulus package appropriate, while about 50% said the same when the measures were announced a week ago.

The boost is still generally welcomed, but the number of those who find the measures inadequate increased from 3% to more than 8%.

The latest survey also inquired about the changes experienced at a workplace due to the outbreak. The workload of some 20% has increased, while 37% have a similar amount of work as before. Almost 10% is working reduced hours, with some 20% being on furlough.

Moreover, 4% have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

The survey was conducted between 31 March and 1 April among 482 respondents.

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02 Apr 2020, 14:13 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Saška Grušovnik. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Number of coronavirus cases rises by 56 to 897, 16 deaths confirmed

Drive-in testing introduced in Koper

3D printed face masks joining fight against Covid-19 in Slovenia

Hospital director resigns after contentious tweets

Number of coronavirus cases rises by 56 to 897, 16 deaths confirmed

STA, 2 April 2020 - The number of coronavirus cases in Slovenia rose by 56 in a day to stand at 897 by Wednesday midnight. So far 16 people have died from the disease. In the last 24 hours, 1,095 tests were conducted, the government said on Twitter.

A total of 112 patents were in hospitals around the country today, 29 of them in intensive care. Four persons were released from hospital in the last 24 hours and one person died.

So far, a total of 24,857 tests have been performed.

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Drive-in testing introduced in Koper

STA, 2 April 2020 - The Koper Community Health Centre, one of the 16 coronavirus testing points in Slovenia, has introduced the country's first drive-in system for taking swabs from potentially infected persons to significantly reduce the time needed for a single test.

In addition to saving time for employees and patients - one test takes 10 instead of 30 minutes - the centre also saves on protective equipment, Ljubica Kolander Bizjak, the director of the centre, has told the STA.

Under the new system, a person who suspects that they are infected contacts their personal physician, who decides if they should be tested. The person then contacts the community health centre and gets a date for the test.

The person then drives to a dedicated parking and is swabbed, and then instructed to remain self-isolated until the results of the test are known.

The drive in testing has been introduced on proposal from employees, who were taking samples in a designated container, where the process took 30 minutes per person, as the container needs to be ventilated for at least 15 minutes and sanitised.

Kolander Bizjak said that drive-in testing was performed in two locations in Koper. The average daily number is 40, but the number sometimes reaches 60, and if a test would take 30 minutes, the system would get "clogged", she added.

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3D printed face masks joining fight against Covid-19 in Slovenia

STA, 2 April 2020 - Shortages of protective gear during the coronavirus pandemic have prompted that new platforms of providing much needed equipment are opening up in Slovenia, such as creating face masks using 3D printers. An initiative has started developing hospital gear as well as supporting home production.

The Let's Protect Slovenia initiative has printed out the first 3D face shields in Slovenia in cooperation with the Primorska University, Izola hospital and Ljubljana Technology Park.

The university has said that the first prototypes have been already despatched to the hospital where they are being tested in the physical world.

Slovenia has thus actively joined foreign countries where the 3D printing technology is already used to mitigate shortages of the coveted gear during the pandemic.

The masks are printed at the university and are compatible with microbiological filters that are part of medical respirators.

A filter model that has been employed in developing 3D-printed masks is certified to be 99.99% efficient in protecting the wearer. The masks are meant for multiple use to boot.

Apart from providing the gear for hospitals, the initiative has also given guidelines on how to use 3D printers to make masks at home. Last week, it made available an open-source format for the Gladius Friends 3D-mask model.

Any 3D printer can be used to make this type of a reusable mask. The initiative thus launched a campaign titled Mask for a Friend, urging citizens to print masks for themselves and their friends.

Open-source groups in the US and other European countries have started to make use of the prototype of such a home-made mask as well.

It is important to note though that the mask has not been certified as a medical equipment or personal protective gear.

Reservations about the mask for domestic use have emerged as well as warnings regarding its safety. The 3D Slovenija group has warned against using the shield, saying such products are porous and of questionable quality, cannot be sufficiently disinfected, are difficult to fit or seal, with home-made filter systems even posing a potential danger to health.

The platform has thus proposed that it would be more viable to make only the prototype and then use printing modes of higher quality or even industrial devices to make the masks, mimicking the production process of dive masks.

Meanwhile, the Let's Protect Slovenia initiative insists that it is looking for the best possible solutions in the given situation, conceding that non-certified equipment is not optimal and that there is room for improvement.

Temperatures higher than 56 degrees Celsius kill coronaviruses and printed equipment can be disinfected in an oven. "We've tried disinfecting at 60 degrees Celsius, 45 minutes in an oven, and it works. I myself have tried it at even higher temperatures and the material endured," said microbiologist Teja Bajt of the initiative.

On the other hand, concerns have been raised about the material reacting to temperatures of 40 degrees already and the chemicals used in the process. The problem with disinfecting it is thus great, said Matej Auguštin, who works for pharmaceuticals.

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Hospital director resigns after contentious tweets

STA, 2 April 2020 - Slovenj Gradec hospital director Janez Lavre has resigned after finding himself in the limelight over a series of tweets which included threats to withhold coronavirus ventilator treatment to critics of the government.

Health Minister Tomaž Gantar has already accepted the resignation, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Lavre, a physician who was once considered as potential health minister, published last week a series of politically charged and unethical tweets related to the situation in the country as the nation is fighting the epidemic.

"Great, you are not getting a ventilator," Lavre said in a response to Social Democrats (SD) presidency member Uroš Jauševec expressing satisfaction over the SD deciding not to back a government proposal to give the army certain policing powers.

He also lashed out against investigative journalist Blaž Zgaga over a tweet critical of the government: "You may be positive soon and then let's hear you squeak." He also referred to critical journalists as vermin in at least two of his tweets.

Lavre, a member of New Slovenia - Christian Democrats (NSi) until last year, closed down all of his social media accounts on Monday and issued an apology.

He said he was aware that the statements were inappropriate, offensive and unethical, and blamed them on the workload and mental stress in the face of events related to the handling of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Announcing the resignation "in relation to the inappropriate public communication by the director", the ministry said today that the matter would be "subject of further proceedings".

The Medical Chamber has already launched due proceeding and said the matter would be discussed by its committee for legal and ethical issues.

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02 Apr 2020, 10:30 AM

STA, 1 April 2020 - Sociologist Valerija Korošec says it is high time to introduce a universal basic income (UBI, or Univerzalni temeljni dohodek – UTD), arguing it is a vital safeguard against the consequences of crises. She thinks Slovenia will introduce it this year to lead the way in a post-corona and post-Brexit EU when it chairs the bloc in 2021.

Although she admits a crisis such as the coronavirus epidemic, when fires are being put out in panic, is not the best time to do that, she believes UBI is urgently needed as the pandemic wreaks social and economic havoc, because it is a means of protection when social systems stop working.

The researcher at the government's macroeconomic think tank IMAD thinks Slovenia will introduce it this year, saying UBI supporters have intensively worked on it since the financial crisis for the past ten years, so they have "ideas and solutions ready".

Korošec says the measures the government is introducing to help the self-employed are not UBI. The government will cover all their social contributions and pay them what a "basic income" of 350 euro for March and 700 euro for April in case of a loss of income.

But the sociologist says these are short-term measures unsustainable in the long run, which do not constitute an optimal use of social resources, are not unconditional and do constitute a subsistence minimum.

She says those who have written the EUR 3 billion fiscal stimulus bill to mitigate Covid-19 ramifications for society "are people who are trying to put the money into preserving the existing system, not into developing a different, more sustainable system".

UBI advocates in Slovenia have been pushing for UBI for the last 15 years, often describing it as a social transfer to give people minimal existential security. But Kroščec says UBI is not just one measure, "it is a broader social paradigm, a way in which society should be organised to be resistant to crises and shocks".

Under the UBI paradigm, society should be organised based on three pillars, which reflect all ideals of the French Revolution: a universal or unconditional pillar, a democratic one and a market one, explains the researcher.

"The universal pillar should become the most fundamental level of social security to strengthen society's foundations, so that a society can survive, or else it can easily be crushed to pieces."

Korošec, Slovenia's representatives on the international and European UBI networks, BIEN and UBIE, says UBIE would like UBI to be introduced in at least one European country by 2020 and in five by 2025.

"Countries are actually competing which one will be the first and best in introducing the most optimal UBI solution." And although Canada seems to be the closest, having experimented with UBI already in the 1970s, Korošec expects Slovenia to be actually the first country in Europe to introduce it this year.

"Perhaps we won't call it UBI, but we will have to introduce policies based on the basic principle of every public policy taking care of all people universally, this will be the starting point."

Korošec believes Slovenia's EU presidency in 2021 is "an excellent opportunity to start developing such a progressive idea and become a beacon for the EU".

Slovenia is small enough, lies "at the crossroads of Slavic, Romance and Germanic nations" and is "in many ways reminiscent of Scandinavian countries", so it could well "unite and lead the way in post-coronavirus- and post-Brexit Europe".

"However, if European society is not clever enough to introduce UBI now, there will be no more EU in ten year's time," the doctor of sociology says.

In 2010 Korošec drafted a proposal to introduce UBI in Slovenia, which was then used by Belgium to introduce a universal child allowance.

In the last ten years Korošec has significantly rethought how it would make sense to introduce UBI. She has started considering not only UBI financed by the state in cash but also the introduction of universal basic resources. Today her thinking thus revolves around local UBI, a universal child allowance for all children in the same amount, as well as energy UBI.

"At a time when we don't know how the world will revolve, this is particularly important. Instead of money we want to give people a warm apartment or guaranteed electricity that must come from renewable sources," she said.

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